Heartbeat is a new medical drama on NBC starring Melissa George as a surgeon. For a medical drama it’s pretty lighthearted and a bit snarky; it has some refreshing qualities that I like. I’ve been watching it since the first episode. I enjoyed it, but it was just the usual medical stuff and relationship stuff. Until something remarkable happened.
I’m talking in particular about the episode “Permanent Glitter.” In this episode a transgender woman (Candis Cayne) is diagnosed with breast cancer.
I give one thousand kudos to the writing staff (mostly women) on Heartbeat for this episode. As the grandparent of a transgender human, I have become very sensitive to issues of respect and equal treatment of transgender folks. This episode was a model of the sensitivity, respect and loving kindness that every other television show should emulate.
The woman, Ava, was treated with respect from the start, both by Alex (Melissa George) and Ji-Sung (Maya Erskine) who treated her, and by everyone else in the hospital. The dialog around her treatment, issues, and surgery was all respectful. A tattoo artist who talked with her about making her scars into works of art was nothing but respectful and kind.
Throughout the episode, Ava was treated exactly the way she wanted to be treated – just like any other woman.
At the end of the episode, the hospital staff staged a flashmob dance in the hospital lobby for her – a truly beautiful and heartwarming moment.
Not only does Heartbeat earn my praise for telling a story like this in such a loving way, but also for using a transgender actress in the role. Candis Cayne gave a terrific performance.
This is but one case of a transgender story done right in popular media. I can count on one hand the shows where I’ve seen this – Transparent, Orange is the New Black. Gosh, I only needed two fingers for that count. Are there others? We need more of this in many more shows and in many other types of stories.
Well done, Heartbeat!